Record Primary Turnout...

The primary elections of 2018 are behind us, and we're still waiting on some of the results (see: Colyer/Kobach), but we thought we'd take a look at what we do know. First, turnout was tremendous, historic, and complicated. Second, this was a wave election, just as predicted. But it was a wave on both ends.

The great news is that turnout was at a historic high. At least for a primary election. Johnson County came in at 29.4%, fully half again higher than the 2016 Presidential primary turnout. Wyandotte County was up to 25% from 22% in 2016. Sedgwick County was up from 17% to almost 23%. That means that one in four registered voters actually voted. This is amazing for a primary. But is it good for a democracy?

Two moderate candidates in southern Johnson County Joy Koesten (KS House District 28) and Patty Markley (KS House District 8) lost their races to ultra-conservative candidates. They had motivated supporters, strong campaigns, they were ideal legislators, communicating with their constituents, working with their colleagues, and looking out for their communities. In fact, if you look at the results of their races, they came within a small number of votes of their breakthrough races in 2016. Joy Koesten got 1,591 votes in 2016, and 1,522 in 2018. Markley, similarly, got 1,546 votes in 2016, and 1,441 this year. The difference comes in the votes their opponents got. In Koesten's district, her opponent got almost 800 more votes in 2018 than in 2016. In Markley's case, this year's opponent got 865 more votes than her opponent in 2016.

The ultra-cons had a wave election in those districts, and elsewhere in Kansas. The net result is a likely turn of the Kansas House back towards a more conservative bent.

So what does all this mean?

In 2014, it appeared that Paul Davis was on his way to a victory in the Governor's race against Sam Brownback. But in the last week, an enormous influx of money from the Republican National Committee came in to get out the vote for Sen. Pat Roberts' campaign. Roberts won handily, and all those Republican voters also ticked the box next to Brownback's name, putting him over the top and giving us three more years of his experiment.

This year, there was a competitive race for Governor on the Republican side, and both Colyer and Kobach worked hard to get their voters out. They did, and the results in southern Johnson County reflected it.

There's a lot to unpack there, but one possibility is this. The country is expecting a Democratic wave this Fall. But in this primary we had a wave... well, let's call it a "wavelet," in competitive Republican races. Where is the space for solutions that cross the aisle in an election environment where only the most excited vote, and turnout is predicated on who can get their side most excited? Have progressives learned from the tea party that vehemence brings success?

We don't know what the answer is, unfortunately. But we do know this, 70% of registered voters didn't have a say last Tuesday. In that 2014 general election, when we re-elected Sam Brownback, fully half of registered voters didn't vote. Half. In a general election in November. 800,000 Kansas who had bothered to register to vote, then just didn't. Brownback won by a little more than 30,000 votes.

It is going to take all of us to make sure that doesn't happen again. 

But as always, it starts here. With you. Do more than vote.

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